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Alcohol restrictions in place for U.S. servicemen following fatal drunk driving accident in Okinawa

Hidemasa Taira, a 61-year-old resident of Naha
Hidemasa Taira, a 61-year-old resident of Naha City, was killed after his light truck was struck by military vehicle driven by a U.S. serviceman on Sunday (TBS News)

TOKYO (TR) – Following the arrest of a U.S. Marine on suspicion of drunk driving over a fatal accident in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture over the weekend, the United States Forces, Japan (USFJ) on Monday announced restrictions on the consumption of alcohol for all service personnel.

“Effective immediately, U.S. service members on Okinawa are restricted to base and to their residences,” the announcement read. “Until further notice, alcohol consumption is prohibited. This includes in residences and public locations such as bars and clubs, and hotels.”

The USFJ announcement, which was distributed from Yokota Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, added that U.S. service personnel on mainland Japan are prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcohol on or off base.

The restrictions come one day after a two-ton military truck driven by Nicholas James-McLean, a 21-year-old private first-class at U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Kinser, struck a light truck at an intersection on National Route 58.

The driver of the light truck, Hidemasa Taira, a 61-year-old resident of Naha, was later confirmed dead at a hospital. The serviceman suffered light injuries to his lower back in the accident, which took place at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday.

An analysis of the breath of the serviceman revealed an alcohol content that was three times the legal limit, according to police. McLean was later arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and negligent driving resulting in death and injury.

Based on an eyewitness account, police believe the light truck was making a right-turn at the intersection with its turn signal applied when it was hit by the military truck, which ignored a red signal.

Responsible use of alcohol

The USFJ announcement added that commanders across Japan will lead mandatory training to address responsible use of alcohol, risk management and acceptable behavior.

“The vast majority of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians in Japan serve honorably and make great contributions to the defense of Japan,” the announcement said. “When our service members fail to live up to the high standards we set for them, it damages the bonds between bases and local communities and makes it harder for us to accomplish our mission. We are committed to being good neighbors with our host communities and we are thankful for the support we receive from them every day.”